This series was first published in http://henryjenkins.org/. The author would like to thank Henry Jenkins and Dominika Ciesielska for permission to reproduce it here.
The Global Fandom Conversation Series, coordinated by Henry Jenkins (MIT) aimed to investigate fandom and fandom studies in different countries, defining fandom in the broadest possible terms for these purposes. Subjects of investigation were both transcultural/transnational exchanges and locally specific fan objects and practices, in an attempt to answer these guiding questions: to what extent is fandom part of a globalisation process? To what extent does fandom still reflect local cultural traditions and practices? How is fandom shaped by economic, political, cultural, social and spiritual traditions and practices and by broader processes of change in different countries and regions of the world? The project has resulted in a series of publications hosted on http://henryjenkins.org/, animated by scholars from some forty different countries. Here’s my contribution in dialogue with Dominika Ciesielska (Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland). Each of us produced an opening statement and we subsequently developed the following exchange.
Giulia Iannuzzi – Opening statement
Dominika Ciesielska – Opening statement
Giulia Iannuzzi – First response
Dominika Ciesielska – First response
Giulia Iannuzzi – Second response / Closing remarks
Dominika Ciesielska – Second Response / Closing remarks
Giulia Iannuzzi – Opening statement
The wide range of activities organized by speculative fiction fans has been, in the Italian cultural context, markedly independent from the problematic reception reserved for speculative genres by academics, intellectuals, and cultural institutions. The historical and technical development of Italian sf fandom goes from the first clubs and correspondences in the late 1950s, through the cyclostyled fanzines appeared in the 1960s, the spread of Bulletin Board Systems in the 1990s, and the advent of the Internet in the 2000s. Until today, this history (as well as reading and association practices in earlier phases, and current fan activities) has largely been a critical underground. Fandom studies are not recognized in the Italian university system as a subject or field of teaching in its own right: research and courses can be found within the activities of individual scholars in literary, historical, media and communication disciplines. A number of first-hand accounts and historical reconstructions written by the protagonists and/or by professionals working in the science fiction market is available.
Issues of primary data and accessibility of sources are crucial, since publications and other memorabilia produced at a non-professional level are not usually to be found in public libraries, and are hence difficult to access. The Italian-speaking world has no equivalent to bibliographical holdings such as the Eaton Collection (University of California Riverside), and the SF Foundation Collection (University of Liverpool), except maybe for the Fondo Sandrelli [the ‘Sandrelli Papers’], part of Biblioteca di via Senato in Milan (which, perhaps significantly, is a private library not connected to a university of other cultural heritage/research center). A significant collection of secondary literature can be found at APICE (Archivi della Parola, dell’Immagine e della Comunicazione Editoriale [‘Word, Image and Editorial Communication Archives’]) center of the University of Milan, thanks to an important donation by Darko Suvin. Some useful online resources are available: Italian initiatives similar to the Fan History Project and The SF Oral History Association are devoted, on a smaller scale, to cataloguing paper-based fanzines: this is the case of the Prontuario delle Fanzine italiane [‘Italian Fanzines Handbook’], part of the portal Intercom SF Station, and of the photographic archive featured on the website Fantascienza.com, preserving visual documentation.
My research on science fiction fan activities in Italy started from central questions drawing on an international scholarly tradition, and particularly on the approach established by Henry Jenkins regarding fans’ productions analyzed as a means of re-creating cultural contents across media: where can fan activities be positioned in relation to the professional fields of science fiction cultural production across different media? How have the new media influenced fans’ activities and the form and workings of fan communities, by making new spaces and tools available to produce content and connect people? And how, in turn, have these people and their activities influenced media development and the shape of the contemporary Italian mediascape? To what extent is Italian fandom Italian? Do fans who live in Italy and/or have Italian as their first language refer, and if so to what extent, to a transnational network of relationships and circulation of knowledge?
It may be of some assistance to the international reader to have a general idea of specialized science-fiction readership and audience in Italy today. The average print run of the most popular specialized newsstand series, Urania, during the 2000s was 12,000 copies per issue, the Star Trek Italian Club had 6,500 members in 2001, while smaller numbers of people are usually actively involved in fan activities. The Star Trek Italian Club Convention, for example, gathers around 1,000 attendees each year.
Since the end of the WWII until nowadays, the Italian speculative fiction market has been characterized by a large number of translations from English, of books, but also of films and television series. There were significant home-grown precursors of the genre, but science fiction did not arrive in Italy as a label until the so-called “economic boom” of the 1950s, and its recent history has consisted mostly of translations of Anglo-American productions. Emblematic of this direct influence is the Italian word ‘fantascienza’, coined in 1952 as a direct translation of the English ‘science fiction’, or the widespread use of linguistic borrowings such as ‘horror’, ‘fantasy’, ‘cyberpunk’, ‘weird’.
After the protectionism that had characterized the decades of the Fascist regime and the difficulties that slowed down the cultural industry during WWII, Italian fandom therefore took shape in a highly internationalized cultural context. Characterized by U.S. influence during the years of the Marshall Plan, the book market, and film and television productions also showed to a lesser extent some influence of the cultural ties that the Italian communist left maintained with the Soviet Union during the Cold War years, and the relationships that Italy has traditionally maintained with its European neighbors (in the speculative fiction publishing market, especially notable with the United Kingdom and France).
Today, to give just a few very general coordinates, the market share of U.S. productions in Italian movie theaters in an average pre-pandemic year was over 65% (according to reports from the National Association of Cinematographic Audiovisual and Digital Industries). In Italian bookshops, around 20%-30% of new books each year is represented by translations, of which English is the source language for more than 60% (according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics). But in popular speculative fiction collections by major publishers, translations from English easily reach and rise above 80% of titles featured. This should not lead one to think of a unidirectional exchange. A few cinematic science fiction masterpieces filmed in Dante’s language have reached the international market (e.g. Gabriele Salvatores’ Nirvana in 1998 or Gabriele Mainetti’s They Call Me Jeeg in 2015 to give just two arbitrary examples). Over the years there has been no lack of translations of Italian speculative literature into other languages, including English, with a prevalence of “non-genre” authors (e.g. Italo Calvino, Dino Buzzati, Primo Levi), of science fiction authors appearing mainly in anthologies (e.g. Lino Aldani, Renato Pestriniero – both also active in the fandom in the 1960s and 1970s) and more rarely with translations of novels (Valerio Evangelisti; or the rediscovery of a nineteenth-century precursor such as Paolo Mantegazza). This being said, it can be maintained that the Italian “translation balance” – so to speak – has remained largely negative (i.e. more titles are translated into Italian than are translated into other languages from Italian).
When it comes to translations from other source languages, especially non-European ones, there may be specific barriers which make translating more of a challenge, including the relative scarcity of professional translators able to translate directly into Italian (this would be the case, for example, of Chinese or Japanese). This explains the frequent appearance of works and anthologies translated from English translations (and, less frequently, especially during past decades, from French) – in other words, with the mediation – linguistic and therefore cultural – of English and American publishing initiatives and editors.
Thus, fans of speculative genres in the peninsula have been familiar with a megatext that is largely trans-national and dominated by an Anglo-American canon. Fan activities reflected – and still today reflect – this background, at the same time providing significant spaces for content penalized by these trends dominating the cultural market.
In many ways, the birth of Italian science fiction fandom followed, a few decades later, the same steps known in the Anglo-American context: magazines such as Oltre il Cielo and Futuro between the late 1950s and early 1960s favored the dawn of a mutual acquaintance between fans by publishing readers’ mail columns, encouraging the start of correspondence and the founding of clubs in the cities of the peninsula. Since these early experiences, fandom has functioned as a training ground, in which those who will become professional (writers and editors) in the following years take their first steps.
Fanzines have functioned as a litmus test for the professional market, giving an outlet to what otherwise might found no space in major publications and media: reviews and critical debates, poetry, translations from languages other than English, and short stories and essays by Italian authors.
One of the most striking consequences of the translation scenario described above was the widespread adoption, in professional publications, of foreign pseudonyms by Italian authors (preferably male pseudonyms, even in the case of female writers) and a large presence of pseudotranslations (works published not only under foreign pseudonyms but also with a fictitious original title and translator). Therefore, the regular inclusion of Italian authors with their real names in fanzines (as well as in a few niche magazines) in the 1960s and after contributed to making the existence of Italian genre writers visible. In a book market such as the Italian one, whose limited size makes it particularly difficult for writers to professionalize (i.e. make creative writing their livelihood), fanzines also represented for many aspiring writers the beginning of a path otherwise precluded in professional publications. Significant to this scenario is also the fact that the primary occupation of some of the leading genre writers and editors of publications over the decades – almost always starting out as fans and then turning professional – has been that of translator (from English).
One can recognize a strong influence of a transnational genre canon in the writing of Italian fans, who quickly assimilated the tropes and stylemes of a shared encyclopedia widely developed elsewhere, alongside the knowledge and reuse of elements of the Italian literary tradition; but certainly this is a vast field where the creative choices are as varied as the participants are numerous, and where a systematic investigation is yet to be conducted.
The strong links with the Anglosphere also determine one of the most debated critical problems in the analysis of fan writing – as well as in the assessment of works that reach the outlet of professional publications, and of audiovisual productions -: to what extent and in what way is Italian speculative fiction Italian? Over the decades various critical theses have been advanced, from the underlining of a particular interest in archaeological and philosophical science fiction strands that emerged in the 1950s, to the strong vocation of critique of the present and exploration of inner spaces that has generally characterized the best-known critical theses in subsequent decades.
The macroscopic nature of the translation phenomenon in the second half of the twentieth century – as well as the scant attention devoted to the archipelago of fantastic genres in Italian literature departments – has also generated a certain difficulty in the critical appreciation of precedents in the Italian language. The historical distrust of many major publishers, of the cultural pages of newspapers and literary magazines towards the labels of fantastic genres has also meant that in recent years some of the most interesting authors and works in the field have been published without any reference to genres such as science fiction (e.g. some of the novels of Tullio Avoledo) or with exclusive references to utopian genres or to climatological fiction, which seem to enjoy a patent of greater cultural nobility (e.g. Qualcosa, là fuori by Bruno Arpaia). Some of these historical-critical themes present, I believe, elements of strong similarity to what has happened and is happening in other European countries (and it is a pity that there are few wide-ranging comparative studies on this – a shortcoming that this forum will certainly help to overcome).
Fan interest often showed how the horizon of expectation was more mature and responsive than the cultural industry programs seemed to assume. A striking example: while Urania – the popular series of Mondadori publishing house – featured J.G. Ballard’s catastrophic novels, and a few of his experimental short stories were proposed in niche magazines, “Which Way to Inner Space?” was first translated and published by Riccardo Valla in his fanzine Sevagram (1968), thanks to his personal correspondence with the author.
The early activism of the fans shows an ease of passage from the reception to the production of content, the ability to assume a cultural agency that, even beyond any evaluation of what is produced (which awaits to be systematically conducted), is a remarkable element in itself, and all the more if placed against the backdrop of the indifference and distrust surrounding science fiction in the generalist media and in contemporary academic circles.
The organization of the first Eurocon in Italy (1972) suggested Italian fandom’s engagement with the international scene and contacts across geographical and political boundaries), thanks to the activism and contacts of, among others, Giampaolo Cossato, also an excellent translator. Similarly, there was the birth of an Italian Star Trek fandom in the early 1980s and the first national convention and foundation of the official fan club in 1986. From then on, Italy saw fanzines, conventions, games, forums, encyclopedic resources and production of fanfiction. The production of Trek fanfiction has also developed outside the official club’s publications, such as, to give just one example, on the EFP website – giving rise to a vast corpus that still awaits critical investigation. Among noteworthy contents are also fanfictions that Italian fans translate from English: a sign of the transnational organization that ties fandoms across national borders, as well as of a use of fanfiction in the context of linguistic self-training. Regarding the world of paper and digital sf fanzines today – according to a survey conducted in 2015 – Italian fanzines publish, alongside texts in Italian, texts translated from English (in almost 24% of cases) and from other languages (9.5%), and in 3.2% texts in languages other than Italian.
The permeability of the Italian cultural market and the decisive ties that speculative production in the peninsula has had (and has) with an international scenario suggest a possible, fascinating problematization of the very concepts of belonging and identity with which we approach the historical-sociological analysis of cultural phenomena. Notions of nationality and/or linguistic-cultural belonging such as “Italian” seem useful for a historical-empirical analysis not so much as boundaries of sets with respect to which individuals position themselves in terms of clear-cut affiliation or exclusion, but as elements of identification and self-identification that are part of complex and nuanced constellations, in which different spatial and temporal scales may interact, and which may be historically constructed by flows of exchange at multiple levels. Many of the key questions I mentioned at the beginning of this reflection remain open and others could be added, making fandom in Italy a promising territory for future study and documentation initiatives. I hope that these notes have provided an initial portrait of speculative fandom in the peninsula, highlighting some distinctive historical elements and the dense international connections that make speculative imagination – also in the field of fan activities – a privileged observatory on the global circulation of ideas.
September 5, 2021
Dominika Ciesielska – Opening statement
Hello, I am a PhD student at the Faculty of Polish Studies at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. I devoted most of my academic career to fan studies because it was the things I was a fan of that brought me to my bachelor major and that made me stay in academia for so many years now. I have always loved reading and I was delighted to learn, as a young teen, that I can stay with my favourite characters forever through the world of fanfiction. I spent my teenage years reading every Harry Potter fanfic I could get my hands on, which proved very useful when I later examined them in my theses, both bachelor and master. In my current research fanfiction is still my main point of focus as I study the affective relationship between the reader and the fic in various types of stories across fandoms. It is “the feels” that I’m most fascinated by, and the emotional need that reading fanfiction satisfies.
I was a potterhead before I was a fan of anything else and before I even knew what fandom was. There wasn’t any sign of it in the small town I grew up in and I gained access to the internet fairly late, which I’m sure is an experience that many of my peers in Poland shared. In 2006 the family computer was in my parents’ bedroom and you had to plug it to the telephone socket to connect to the internet. It was therefore a completely unfamiliar territory for me, but as soon as my fellow potterhead cousin introduced me to Forum Literackie Mirriel (http://forum.mirriel.net/) I would spend all my free time reading Harry Potter fanfics that filled it and I quickly branched out to various fanfiction blogs on Onet.pl, one of the largest Polish web portals, that had since closed the blog sub platform.
Many years in Polish fanficiton scene taught me a certain dialect that was a result of a mix of fannish terms and poor translation. Among often ridiculed (in English as well) phrases like “black-haired boy looked at the taller man with his big blue orbs” (https://victuuriplease.tumblr.com/post/173344244706/fics-be-like) what stood out was the smut. In Polish names of genitals and sexual acts often sound either too medical or too crude, although nowadays there are sex educators like Kasia Koczułap who work to change that stigma (https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17867241361798430/). In order to make smutty parts of fanfics maintain their smuttiness, fanfic translators often just copied English words (with Polish spelling) or grammatical structures disregarding the rules of Polish language because it just didn’t allow to express the same sentiment in the same way. It wasn’t a bad translation, though – it became the language of fanfics, fully acceptable and understandable in this context. Nevertheless, many readers, myself included, have moved to reading original English texts and never looked back. For many Polish fanfiction was just a first step leading to “leveling up” to enter the global fandom, much broader and richer. I personally started in Harry Potter fandom but now I read fanfics to almost every piece of pop culture I consume and I’m active on a few social media platforms, including Tumblr and some fan groups on Facebook. The latter is particularly interesting to observe how different fandom communities behave. For example, I’m a member of a Polish Harry Potter group and an English-speaking one devoted to YouTube’s Dan and Phil. They’re in many ways total opposites of each other, though it’s hard to tell whether the reason is the fans or the type of media they are fans of.
Because I grew up in a small town and wasn’t exposed to it, I was already an adult when I joined the fandom in gathering in real life. There are quite a few fan conventions in Poland, some bigger, like Pyrkon (in Poznań) or the oldest one, Polcon (every year in different city), others smaller, like the rather quaint Imladris in Kraków. They are a great way to show off your cosplay or meet and hang out with like-minded people, but for me it was all about the talks. Every con I’ve been to had a packed schedule of fannish presentations and discussions and I loved it – that is, until I learnt about fan studies conferences. The academic approach suited me much better and fell in line with my university work.
Fan studies is not yet well developed in Poland. Individual papers and articles have been published for years (notably by Piotr Siuda), but there’s very few books fully devoted to the subject, namely Aldona Kobus’ Fandom. Fanowskie modele odbioru (2018) and Małgorzata Lisowska-Magdziarz’s Fandom dla początkujących (2017, 2018). It is still fairly unusual to study fan culture in many universities in Poland. I have been lucky to have the support of my supervisors since I first began my research for my bachelor thesis. It concerned fan stories on Forum Literackie Mirriel while my master’s thesis examined Harry Potter war-themed fanfics while studying the myth-making quality of writing fanfiction. I explored this as well in an article for an academic journal “Maska” (2018). In my writing and several conference papers I have also looked into spacial strategies of Alternate Universes, the relationship between music fans and the musicians in RPF, fans queering the canon, serious critique in crack, objects’ agency, the use of platforms like AO3, and anti-shipping. One of the Polish conferences on fan fiction inspired me to organize a better one, and so I have – in October 2019 ARTIFACTS, ARCHIVES, AFFAIRS. Perspectives on fan productions international conference took place at Jagiellonian University and as far as I know it was the first fan studies conference of this size in Poland. Matt Hills, Nicolle Lamerichs, Agata Zarzycka and I are now working on a volume collecting chapters based on papers from that conference. Archives of Affect. Productivity in Fan Cultures is planned to be published by Amsterdam University Press in 2022. If the world situation allows, I would like to organize a sequel conference next year as well, since my plans for 2020 were thwarted by the pandemic. I am now mainly preoccupied with my doctoral research that is focused on affective aspect of fan writing – how fanfics are characterized and organized by the emotional impact they’re supposed to have on the reader and how readers seek that exact emotional response, whether it comes from their relationship with the source material or the fan story itself.
With all I do – my dissertation, publications I edit, and conferences I organize – I hope to make a valuable contribution to fan studies in Poland and to help the discipline grow in our country. Currently we have very scarce resources available in Polish libraries and it’s difficult, especially as a PhD student, to gain access to global databases and yet it is expected (even just among ourselves) that we are familiar with well-developed western fan studies field. Every Polish fan scholar knows the struggle of coming across a relevant quote or mention but not being able to access full text of the cited source because of the country we’re in or the currency we use. That being said, we became quite creative with ways to overcome those obstacles and familiarize ourselves with both domestic and foreign literature in the field. Nevertheless, hopefully one day we won’t have to resort to anything unusual to read the newest book of a fellow fan scholar from a different country as the discipline and its significance grows.
I obviously cannot speak for all Polish fans or academics. My experience can be vastly different from another Polish person, depending on our age, location, interests, background, personality etc. I am very glad to be a part of this global fandom conversation and I am looking forward to read other contributions to see what we have in common or what is uniquely Polish.
Kraków, 11 September 2021
Response to Dominika Ciesielska’s opening statement for Henry Jenkins’ global fandom studies conversation series
Dear Dominika – and dear readers of Henry Jenkins’ global fandom studies conversation series – it is a real pleasure to comment on your opening statement, I read it with great interest for a number of reasons. It seems to me that your intellectual trajectories – in reading, in participating in fandoms such as Harry Potter’s, and in the academic fandom studies community – represent a fascinating experience of belonging to multiple linguistic, cultural, and emotional groups.
Among the points that struck me immediately, and certainly of great interest for a reflection on fandom in a global perspective, is the attention you paid in your notes to linguistic and translational aspects. You mention that your direct experience in fandom taught you that “a certain dialect that was a result of a mix of fannish terms and poor translation” and you mention the choices of fanfic translators regarding the language to describe sex. It would seem to me that in Polish fandom there is a lively activity of translation. This raises my curiosity, because I believe our perception of a global cultural landscape is very much influenced by the circulation of works that straddle linguistic borders, which often means in translation. In your experience, is translation of fanfiction from other languages a central or marginal part of fan activity in Poland? What languages do people translate from? I can imagine that in the translation market it is perhaps the Anglosphere that is the main importer, as it undoubtedly is in Italy: is that the case? Perhaps, however, the Polish cultural scene is sensitive to receiving input or having exchanges with other linguistic areas as well.
That the circulation of texts and practices across linguistic borders does not coincide with translation also emerges well from your remarks, when you mention the fact that for many fans Polish-language fan fiction represented a stage that was later abandoned in favor of entering global fandom. I guess by “global” we all mean English-speaking. It would be interesting to understand if the participation in this global English-speaking fandom of so many individuals from different linguistic-cultural backgrounds tends to enrich its diversity, and in some way “creolize” language, styles and practices: if there is anything that your experience and studies allow you to add about this I would be very interested.
This question brings me to the heart of an issue related to the mono- or pluri-directionality of global relationships in our domain: the fact that the interconnectedness at the geographic-spatial and cultural levels we are concerned with is also influenced by power relationships. This seems to me to come across very well in your opening statement about fandom studies in academia, where for example you talk about the relative difficulty of access to research materials (e.g. the most recent publications, or databases and aggregators). Here there may be a problem of relative peripherality with respect to the main centers of production in this field (a peripherality that Italian universities certainly share), as well as the limited resources that fandom studies manage to attract in countries like Poland or Italy where the field has little or no institutional recognition as a discipline.
It also seems significant to me that in order to participate in the global conversation about fandom (i.e., make our contribution to the scholarly field and reaching an international readership) the output of our research must generally be conveyed in English. Thus, our integration into the global field of studies also depends on the economic and linguistic capital we have at our disposal. I don’t know of many forums (journals, platforms) that apply a plurilingual model, maybe you know of some examples though.
I am very fascinated by your work on the emotional aspects of fandom. Do you study these aspects through language? Or what other kinds of sources and methods do you employ? In the conference you organized in 2019 at Jagiellonian University I see that artifacts also had a central place. The life of fannish objects also seems to me to be a field that could potentially tell us a lot about international exchange dynamics and emotional investments, and perhaps until now has been relatively less studied than writing-based activities. If there’s anything you’d like to add about this I’d be very curious.
23 January 2022
Response to dr Giulia Iannuzzi
Dear Giulia – and everyone! – reading your opening statement gave me an idea of how similar Polish and Italian fan scenes are, both for the fans and for the scholars. Your detailed overview of the fan studies discipline (or technically lack thereof) in Italian academia sounds very familiar and reminds me of issues that I myself face with the institutional recognition of fan studies or data and sources accessibility. Despite that, there is a rapidly increasing number of scholars interested in that field and insightful publications. I am excited to be a part of this growing area of studies.
I find your question about the influence of the new media on fan activities and vice versa very interesting. Since I entered the fandom when it was already quite well established in the Web 2.0, I haven’t observed how it changed compared to the pre-internet era, but I have seen how the fandom I participated in adapted to new technologies over the past fifteen years. It essentially branched out into Twitter fandom, Tumblr fandom, TikTok fandom etc., creating so many new ways to engage with other fans and fannish content. I see fandom (understood very broadly) conquering new territories with ease and bravado, not only adapting to their capacities, but also creating ways of interacting with them that influence a significant group of internet users who don’t identify with the fandom. It is a fascinating subject! Have you noticed any technology-related fan practices that emerged recently? Or which ones do you consider the most significant?
I’m not surprised that Italian (pop)culture – and, consequently, fan culture as well – is heavily affected by Anglo-American works. It is also noticeable in Poland and in my opinion in fan works more so than in canon. Aspiring to join the global – yes, as you have noticed I do mean English-speaking – fandom meant that foreign sounding pseudonyms and translations were rather popular. I don’t dare to give a definite answer whether translation is a central or marginal activity in Polish fandom, it would require further studies, but in my experience there was a significant number of translated works – more so on forums than blogs which may have something to do with the characteristics of each platform. As I said in my opening statement, it influenced the language even of the originally Polish works, adopting arguably poor translations as sort of dialectic terms further used by many fanfic authors. Keeping that in mind it is indeed difficult to judge the Polishness of the Polish fandom or the Italiannes of the Italian one. However, I think both Polish and Italian fans, as well as all the other nations, leave a mark on the global fandom, “creolizing it”, as you put it. An English speaking reader can encounter a beautiful variety of fanfics which on top of the canon material or fanfiction tropes utilise their local context, including for example national traditions or religious customs in the plot. Those local elements seep into the whole of global fandom in texts, conversations, cultural exchange, making the English default richer than just “original” English language (which in itself isn’t homogenous considering how many nations speak it as natives). This global English – or specifically fannish English – reigns on most global platforms making it seem like plurilingual ones are not necessary. Of course there are sites like AO3, but it only gathers works in many languages, there isn’t much exchange between them. I suppose it would be very difficult to run something that doesn’t have a common base of communication, although at one of the Fan Studies Network Conferences I’ve heard an idea of such exchange based on mostly automatic translations of provided specifically prepared texts. It was a few years ago and nowadays one could argue Facebook works this way, offering translations of most languages, providing, in theory, a platform of multilingual exchange. I must say, though, these translations are often full of critical errors when it comes to Polish or, as I observe currently, Ukrainian. Perhaps it is better with Italian?
I noticed you placed the birth of the Italian Star Trek fandom in the early 1980s. As fan scholars I’m sure we are all used to Star Trek being a turning point in the history of fans in the 60s, but similarly to Italy, Poland got access to the TV show much later, which was also the case for a huge part of Western culture because of the Soviet-Union-dependent Polish People’s Republic that Poland was from 1947 to 1989. It had a huge impact on the fan culture that for a long time focused on Polish fantasy and science fiction authors like Stanisław Lem or Andrzej Sapkowki, or Russian Strugatsky brothers. All of them are still highly respected in fan circles in Poland, and Sapkowski even more so with The Witcher’s international recognition and success (although what you would call “The Witcher’s fandom” changed significantly since the 90s).
To answer your last questions – my work on emotional aspects of fandom is still in the development stage, so I am looking for the best tool to study it. I’ve been looking into the language, yes, but also at readers’ comments and reactions, and the way fanfics circulate on the internet, how they are introduced, described or tagged (e.g. “this story will make you cry”). It fascinates me how “the feels” are the centre point of attention when talking about a fic, its reason and goal. Artifacts, however, aren’t my specialty, so I recommend looking forward to the upcoming Archives of Affect… book that I’m privileged to know includes some very interesting analyses about the subject.
Kraków, 26 March 2022
Second response to Dominika Ciesielska / Closing remarks
Dear Dominika – and dear readers of the global fandom series – your latest reflections seem to me to open up extremely useful pathways for understanding fandom in its linguistic-geographical articulation and in the complexity of its practices and communities.
I was fascinated by the similarities that the case of Star Trek fandom presents between the Italian and Polish contexts. I can add to this that the broadcasting of The Original Series in Italy about a decade after the first American airing had to do with a season of privatization and sale of television frequencies. In the early years of TV, television channels in Italy had been managed exclusively by the state; Star Trek was broadcast from 1979 by TMC, a station based in the Principality of Monaco, which at the time of its foundation in 1974 had become the main competitor of the Italian public channels (RAI). Thus, the time that elapsed between the birth of the series in America and its arrival in Italy was not due to political reasons linked to the existence of the Soviet bloc, but to economic reasons, pertaining the penetration in the peninsula of the forms and rules of the free market. The Italian translation for the dubbing of The Original Series was hasty and not accurate: it simplified and levelled down the technical-scientific and pseudo-scientific language, and lacked coherence in the way recurring and characteristic terms were rendered (expressions such as “to beam”, “phaser”, “warp drive” to mention but a few examples were translated in different ways in different episodes without this being due to any particular need for synchronization). The image of the public that these translations conveyed was, in short, unequivocally that of an audience that was culturally less prepared than its American counterpart of a decade earlier, especially in the scientific field, as demonstrated by the impoverishment of the relative lexical sphere, and as indicated by the general difficulty with which neologisms were rendered (or eliminated). The Italian fans proved that the real audience was better prepared than the gatekeepers. Since the late 1980s, after the dissatisfaction manifested towards the first dubbings of The Original Series, the Star Trek Italian Club began a series of collaborations aimed at promoting and supervising the quality and philological accuracy of the franchise’s products in Italy. Over the years, the club has collaborated, for example, with consultancies at various Italian publishing houses that have printed novelizations and derivative works, and with the supervision of translations for the dubbing of the new series and feature films that arrived in Italy and the new editions of The Original Series from 1990 onwards (I would take the liberty of referencing Iannuzzi 2014 on this case study). The case therefore seems to me to be particularly illustrative of the two-way relationship that Italian fandom has been able to establish with the cultural industry, precisely with regard to the forms in which English-language products that enjoy global success circulate in Italy.
It seems to me, too, that the adoption of new technologies – in particular the use of new social networks and digital platforms for the creation and sharing of content such as Twitter, Tumblr, TikTok – has favored the aggregation of new communities. My impression is that these communities of practice often operate in a complementary way to the pre-existing landscape, i.e. without replacing previous spaces and methods. In other words, the spaces opened up by new media and platforms tend to multiply the articulations of fan activities and foster the widespread presence of multiple forms of belonging, according to a very differentiated spectrum of levels of identification, engagement and activism. Mine, however, is a very superficial impression, because for the Italian context there is a great disproportion between the extension of the phenomenon – i.e. the remarkable amount of content and communicational exchanges produced every day within fan communities on various platforms as well as in more traditional occasions of exchange – and the collection and systematic study of data on this. The researches carried out so far have offered sometimes excellent insights, but we are still far from having an overall mapping, even only with regard to specific communities. Studies have been conducted on the use of given platforms or the interest in given media, genres, works, authors. For example, Rossetti 2013 interrogated fanfiction as a tool/experience that may promote the learning of English as a foreign language also thanks to the particular emotional investment of those who read and write it; Sebastiani 2015 considered fanfiction based on Valerio Evangelisti’s Eymerich cycle; Renga 2016 touched upon fanfiction related to the TV series Gomorra.
Digital technologies have certainly fostered the emergence of new practices also in the world of fan studies, where interesting investigations were recently carried out on large corpora of fanfiction with text mining tools and computational sociolinguistics techniques. Rebora et al. 2021 proposed the application of a range of methodologies in the field of digital humanities to the new forms taken on by social reading practices on the net; Mattei et al. 2021 applied computational methods to the analysis of a large corpus of Italian Harry Potter fanfiction. The current research interests you mentioned towards the end of your remarks seem to me extremely promising in this sense as well, in their ability to combine an interest in the emotional investment involved in fan activities and methodologies that can make the best of the digital environment in which some fan activities are carried out, e.g. the presence of tagging systems, and commenting and sharing spaces which may help us in navigating textual corpora and study texts circulation. I look forward with great curiosity to seeing the results of this exciting new generation of fan studies.
Iannuzzi Giulia, 2014; “«To boldly go where no series has gone before». Star Trek. The Original Series in Italia: il linguaggio della tecno-scienza, il doppiaggio, il fandom”, Between, 4, 8. https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/1343.
Mattei Andrea, Dominique Brunato, Felice Dell’Orletta, 2021, “The Style of a Successful Story: A Computational Study on the Fanfiction Genre”, in Proceedings of the Seventh Italian Conference on Computational Linguistics, Bologna, Italy, March 1-3, 2021, eds Johanna Monti, Felice Dell’Orletta, Fabio Tamburini (Turin: Accademia University Press, 2020), https://doi.org/10.4000/books.aaccademia.8718.
Rebora Simone, Peter Boot, Federico Pianzola, Brigitte Gasser, J. Berenike Herrmann, Maria Kraxenberger, Moniek M Kuijpers, Gerhard Lauer, Piroska Lendvai, Thomas C. Messerli, Pasqualina Sorrentino, 2021, “Digital humanities and digital social reading”, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, 36, 2: ii230-ii250. https://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqab020.
Renga Dana, 2016, “Gomorra: la Serie: Beyond Realism”, The Italianist 36, 2: 287-292. https://doi.org/10.1080/02614340.2016.1176711.
Rossetti Elena, 2013, Reading and writing fan fiction in English as a foreign language: a survey study, MA thesis, University of Venice Ca’ Foscari, a.y. 2012-13.
Sebastiani, Alberto, 2015, “Fan fiction and politics. The case Eymerich and criticism to the Catholic Church”, Between, 5, n. 10. https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/1582.
27 March 2022
Response to dr Giulia Iannuzzi / Closing remarks
Dear Giulia – and Global Fandom readers – I see clearly that I can’t rival your Star Trek knowledge, but if you’re interested in the Polish context, I recommend Agnieszka Urbańczyk’s works, namely her recently published Utopia is sold separately: the politics of the science fiction genre in fan reception (as illustrated by Star Trek) – although as far as I’m aware it’s currently only available in Polish. It’s interesting to see how such staple for global fandom texts of culture play a different role, have a different history and meaning in different countries. As a Polish person I find it fascinating to see how it is unravelling with The Witcher, which has been a vital part of the Polish fantasy fandom since the 90s and now I meet people who don’t even speak Polish and haven’t read the books, but are also affected by Geralt’s life story. Some met the witcher in the video games, some in the Netflix show and their experience is vastly different than mine. Their story was lived on the computer screen, mine on old books with white covers that I searched for in all local libraries, one by one. Their Geralt is Henry Cavill, mine will always be Michał Żebrowski, regardless of what I think about their performances. I could say it’s like with Star Trek, but I think for someone outside of the Anglo-American environment it is much more significant that something from our culture is recognizable – and greatly appreciated! – by people all over the world.
I completely agree with what you said about new communities (gathered around new media) being complementary to the old ones, rather than replacing them. There’s a question whether those communities are new at all – yes, I would say they differ, but at the same time they’re not mutually exclusive. TikTok community behaves in a certain way on TikTok and Tumblr community behaves a certain way on Tumblr, but they may as well consist of the same people using various platforms for various reasons and goals. And someone who used to only get fanzines in the mail can now also use Twitter. I would say the fandom – as this giant medley of individual or variously grouped people – adapted to the new possibilities, not moving into the next medium, but rather spreading everywhere with varying levels of engagement. This allowed for dissemination (and adaptation) of fan practices into all those new media, but also for creating new customs and methods based on what the new media allows and how it inspires. I enjoy seeing people gathering on Tumblr to create a fanzine that will be published in paper form just like it was done before the internet, as well as those who use digital art form to create something accessible only virtually. I think this is a great example of the coexistence of the old and the new fan practices, alongside self-published fan books (I myself own several and they are cherished) or personalised art for those who support the artist on platforms like Patreon or Ko-fi.
Thank you for the suggestions for further reading, I’ll definitely check them out. Digital humanities is certainly a very interesting field and I find it especially useful to compare the original and the translation of a text. I haven’t done any research in that area, but I would be very curious about such an analysis of Harry Potter. As a fan I have noticed differences between the Polish translation and the original English that influenced my understanding and interpretation of the story and I believe it affects how fans interact with canon, for example in fanfiction. Elizaveta Kasilova touched upon this issue in her paper at the aforementioned ARTIFACTS, ARCHIVES, AFFAIRS. Perspectives on fan productions conference. She talked about how Russian fans understand cultural references in Harry Potter and how it reflects in fanfiction. It would be interesting to use digital technologies to analyse the original, the translations, and the fanfics.
Thank you for this exchange, I enjoyed learning about the Italian perspective and sharing the Polish one. I am very glad I could be a part of the whole Global Fandom conversation, I hope it is only the beginning of this wide international discussion. I’ve been interested in bringing various perspectives together for a while – for the past three years I’ve taught a course about fanfiction for undergraduate students that was designed to study and compare fan works from different cultures. It’s in English, so not only Polish students can participate, although they still are the majority each semester. I’ve been lucky to observe students’ research from the fanfiction sphere in several countries, and I find it very educational to compare them to my own experience as a fan and a fan scholar. I believe this kind of exchange is essential for the future of fan studies (and academic research in general), so I’m very happy it’s happening and I’m thankful for the opportunity to contribute.
Kraków, 28 March 2022
Dominika Ciesielska – is a PhD student at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland where she teaches a course on fanfiction. Her academic interests lie within fan culture, and her research focuses on fanfiction and fannish affect. She is the author of several published papers: on Harry Potter fanfiction, fan writing as a myth-making practice and retelling of space. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9934-4924
Giulia Iannuzzi – I have always found fascinating how the human mind is able to go beyond reality, beyond what is known through the senses. The future as an imaginary laboratory for testing ideas or satirizing the present, and utopian projections are among the fruits that I personally find most exciting in the history of thought, literature, and the visual arts. In my research I have worked on the history of speculative imagination, history of the book, and translation processes. Among my monographs three are dedicated the history of science fiction in Italy (Fantascienza italiana, 2014; Distopie, viaggi spaziali e allucinazioni, 2015; Un laboratorio di fantastici libri, with Luca G. Manenti 2019), and I published a number of articles in English and Italian, including some on Italian science fiction fandom (“FN3/ITA. Fenomenologia del fandom italiano” 2018; “Electric Hive Minds”, 2016; “To boldly go where no series has gone before”, 2014). I have recently been working on the history of imaginary wars, between the eighteenth and early twentieth centuries (here is an article I published in Cromohs: https://doi.org/10.13128/cromohs-11706). I am currently working mainly on eighteenth-century sources, reconstructing those processes of secularization and colonization of the future that accompanied, in early-modern Europe, a profound epistemological reconfiguration of history and knowledge of the past (here’s a recent essay on the 1733 futuristic novel Memoirs of the Twentieth Century: https://doi.org/10.19272/202011501003).
Tracing the dawn of a secularized, pliable future: Geographies of Time, https://ian.hypotheses.org/.
First published on http://henryjenkins.org/: Opening I – LINK; Opening II- LINK; Responses – LINK; Closing remarks – LINK
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